Early Dental Care
Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are
sore, tender and sometimes irritated until the age of 3. Rubbing sore
gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon, or a cold
wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid
teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for
signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside
or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the
tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water
and left in an infant's mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This
happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental
plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child
drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20
minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the
saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child's
teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Infant's New Teeth
The primary, or "baby," teeth play a crucial role in dental
development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has
difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of
the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place
when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with
missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may
require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space
open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space
and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should
always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares
for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats
the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to
plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental
A Child's First Dental Visit
A child's first dental visit should be scheduled around his/her first
birthday. The most important part of the visit is getting to know and
becoming comfortable with a doctor and his staff. A pleasant,
comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease
during future dental visits. If possible, allow the child to sit in a
parent's lap in the exam room.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth
allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow
for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy
teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide emergence
of the permanent teeth as well as hold space for them.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy,
well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps
minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks
that children eat cause cavities, so children should only receive
healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and cheeses which
promote strong teeth.
Infant Tooth Eruption
A child's teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4
months of age, the primary or "baby" teeth push through the gums—the
lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The
remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically emerge by age 3, but the
place and order varies.
Permanent teeth begin to emerge around age 6, starting with the first
molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around
age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth—32 including the
third molars (wisdom teeth).
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not
allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a
bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle
or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth
decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual
in your child's mouth.
Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and
toddlers. Children usually cease thumb sucking when the permanent front
teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of
2 and 4 years. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of
primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and malalignment
of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking
behavior in your child, talk to your dentist.
Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:
Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don’t thumb suck.
Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety—thumb sucking is a
comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
Praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.
- Habit appliance can be placed by the dentist to prevent thumb sucking.